Amongst allegations a number of UN-linked Norwegian officials in Afghanistan committed several acts of corruption whilst there, the UN says it is investigating what happened to some NOK 300 million Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg promised President Barack Obama.
The Norwegian Prime Minister issued his assurance in 2009, the same year of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize award.
Norway has so far paid NOK 175.5 million (roughly USD 30.7 million at today’s ROE) of the some NOK 300 million (about USD 52.48 million) to the “Law and Order Trust Fund" (LOFTA) since then.
The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) administers LOFTA, established in 2002, with money going towards training of some 150,000 police officers in Afghanistan.
Norway, who is one of five of the largest donors behind the US, Japan, Germany, and the EU, has stopped all payments to the fund amongst corruption fears. The move comes following the decision to relieve Lofta’s director, his deputy, and financial advisors of their duties. The UNDP’s country director for Afghanistan has also been replaced.
“The matter seems to be more extensive than we first thought,” Kjell-Gunnar Eriksen, Ministerial advisor at the Norwegian embassy in Kabul told Bergens Tidende (BT). “The UNDP is leaving no stone unturned, to find out how long this has been going on, amongst other things.”
“We’ve been informed that they uncovered things, and that employees of the fund have been placed elsewhere. An extensive investigation is being carried out that will provide comprehensive documentation of what has happened and not,” he added, saying the embassy hold regular meetings with the UNDP and other donor organisations.
A local UNDP Norwegian representative informed the paper his country’s officials have not informed them Norway has frozen its contributions, and “that doesn’t tally with what our people here are saying.” Not wishing to comment further on the investigation’s progress, he would only declare that the UN has “absolutely zero tolerance for corruption.”
BT also reports there are allegations of corruption in Afghanistan concerning Tromsø Mineskadesenter-connected (TMC) UN staff.
The project involved training health personnel in villages to administer lifesaving treatment so that fewer victims, including victims of bombings, would lose their lives on their way to the hospital.
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) officials had promised funding for NOK 13.5 million (approximately USD 2.36 million). The project ran for seven years until TMC closed it down in 2009 because of the country’s massive corruption problem.
A complaint about possible much smaller-scale individual acts of corruption, involving demands for several hundred dollars this time, was made in 2009. The Ministry was only made aware of these allegations in April this year, according to Bergens Tidende.
Like the UN, the MFA is also zero corruption-oriented. Officials chose to do nothing, however. They allege this is because of the excess time gulf between the claimed matter and them receiving information.
An internal anti-corruption MFA unit in 2007 against misuse of Foreign Service funds was set up in 2007.
When asked about the incident, MFA communications advisor Svein Atle Michelsen wrote in an email to BT that, "the central control division would have been asked to investigate the matter if the allegations of irregularities had been forwarded to the Ministry earlier.”
However, three years is no hindrance according to MFA guidelines. “Issues concerning corruption or attempted corruption should be reported, even if they are not extremely recent”, division senior advisor Arne Bjørnstad told the paper in general terms, “we’ve had cases that are older.”
Norway’s foreign aid practises were called into question in 2009, after Afghanistan’s Ahmad Zia Massoud was stopped with NOK 321 million in cash (about USD 56.3 million) in the United Arab Emirates.
Mr Massoud, who denied he ever took any money out of Afghanistan, was allowed to keep the money following a decision by US embassy staff in Kabul.
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